Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Plant and Soil Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Ling Yuan


Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle), is a well-known medicinal plant that produces a vast array of terpenoid indole alkaloids (TIAs), including two anticancer compounds vinblastine and vincristine. Industrial scale production of TIAs is hampered by the difficulties of total chemical synthesis of these compounds and the fragmented knowledge on TIA pathway. Transcriptional regulation of the TIA biosynthetic pathway has not been thoroughly investigated in Catharanthus and only a few structural genes have been identified as the targets of two master regulators: the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor (TF) CrMYC2 and APETALA2/ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR (AP2/ERF), ORCA3. Next generation sequencing (NGS) has been used as a tool to isolate novel genes encoding enzymes and regulators of TIA pathway in Catharanthus. In this dissertation, I have performed the transcriptomic analysis of transgenic Catharanthus hairy roots ectopically expressing a dominant repressive form of CrMYC2 or ORCA3 in order to understand their potential impact on the TIA transcriptional regulatory network and to identify and characterize novel target(s) of these two key TFs.

MYC2 acts as regulatory hub involved in diverse aspects of plant growth, development, and specialized metabolite biosynthesis by coordinating the crosstalk among different phytohormone signals. CrMYC2 was initially identified in Catharanthus as a regulator of ORCA3. CrMYC2 transactivates ORCA3 by binding to the T/G-box in jasmonate-responsive element (JRE) of ORCA3 promoter. RNA interference (RNAi) mediated knockdown of CrMYC2 strongly reduced TIA accumulation in Catharanthus cell suspension culture. However, the potential influence of CrMYC2 on the expression of other regulatory and structural genes in the TIA pathway remains poorly understood. Transcriptomic analyses revealed that CrMYC2 plays an essential role in JA-induced gene expression and the differentially expressed genes are involved in diverse aspects of growth and development as well as abiotic and biotic stress responses in Catharanthus. Additionally, the expression of genes related to auxin, ethylene, and abscisic acid signaling cascades were affected in hairy roots with modified CrMYC2 expression, suggesting this TF mediates cross-talk between JA and other phytohormones. Surprisingly, overexpression of CrMYC2 resulted in repressed expression of TIA pathway genes in transgenic hairy roots. Expressions of key activators of indole and iridoid pathway were downregulated whereas expression of repressors were upregulated in CrMYC2 hairy roots.

Activators (i.e. CrMYC2 and ORCA3) and repressors (i.e. G-box binding factors; GBFs) have been isolated and characterized for their role in regulation of TIA pathway. However, the interconnection between those regulators and the underlying molecular mechanism has not been throughly studied. I identified (i) the interaction of CrMYC2 with CrGBFs and (ii) how this cross-family transcription factor interactions fine-tunes TIA biosynthesis in Catharanthus. The expression profiles of CrMYC2 and CrGBFs were highly correlated in different tissues and in response JA. Moreover, CrMYC2 interacted with CrGBF1 and CrGBF2 in both yeast and plant cells. CrGBF1 and CrGBF2 could form homo- and hetero-dimer which bound T/G-box elements of TIA pathway gene promoters. In plant cells, CrGBF1 antagonizes the activity of CrMYC2 on target promoters in a dosage dependent-manner. Similarly, CrMYC2 can overcome CrGBF1-mediated repression of target promoters in a dosage dependent manner.

ORCA3 is another major regulator of TIA biosynthesis in Catharanthus. The transcriptomic analysis of ORCA3 transgenic hairy roots revealed (i) the effect of ORCA3 on newly identified TIA pathway biosynthetic enzymes; (ii) identify the potential effect of ORCA3 on three biological processes: abiotic stress response, plant secondary metabolic process, and response to hormonal stimulus; and (iii) the identification of potential regulator(s) of TIA biosynthesis using ORCA3 based co-expression analysis.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)